Updated January 9, 2020 - 10:44 pm
Falling behind in the first period against Pittsburgh and St. Louis was understandable, albeit not the preferred strategy against two of the NHL’s top teams.
But doing it against last-place Los Angeles on Thursday night left Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant in a foul mood.
“Same old story, isn’t it? No excuses,” Gallant said. “The first period was awful. It’s embarrassing.”
The Knights allowed four goals in the final 6:20 of the first period and couldn’t recover in a 5-2 loss at T-Mobile Arena.
The Kings entered with the worst record in the Western Conference and were playing the second game of a back-to-back but won for the second time in three meetings with the Knights.
Reilly Smith and Max Pacioretty scored 56 seconds apart in the second period to spark some life into the announced crowd of 18,281.
The Knights outshot Los Angeles 35-5 in the final two periods, including a 24-3 advantage in the second, which was one more than their previous season high for shots on goal in a period set Oct. 13 against the Kings.
The loss was the Knights’ second straight after winning the first four games on their homestand and cost them the opportunity to claim sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division after Arizona lost at Tampa Bay.
Defensemen Alec Martinez and Ben Hutton put the Kings ahead 2-0 in the first period with goals 1:21 apart.
Tyler Toffoli gave Los Angeles a 3-0 lead at 18:44 when he wristed in a shot off a faceoff, and Adrian Kempe poked in a rebound with 1.7 seconds remaining for the first of his two goals.
“I think it’s just being more engaged in the first period,” Smith said. “We gave them way too many opportunities, and on a team like that on a back-to-back, you have to jump on them quickly, and we didn’t do that. We deserved to lose tonight.”
Here’s what stood out:
1. Digging a hole
Starting on time suddenly has become a major issue for the Knights, who allowed the first goal for the fifth straight game.
The Knights were outscored 9-0 in the past three first periods against Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, and have allowed 13 first-period goals in their past six games dating to Dec. 28.
The four goals allowed against Los Angeles tied a season high for most allowed in a period set in the second period against Philadelphia on Oct. 21.
After allowing 16 shots on goal in Tuesday’s loss to the Penguins, the Knights yielded 18 shots on goal in the first period against the Kings.
“The last three, we haven’t been ready to go,” defenseman Deryk Engelland said. “We got lucky the first one, came back and won. But you can’t give any team in this league — it doesn’t matter where they are in the standings — one-goal leads, let alone three or four. We’ve got to change something and be ready to go at the drop of the puck.”
2. Between the pipes
Knights goalie Malcolm Subban started for the first time in 2020, but couldn’t find a rhythm early and finished with 18 saves.
Martinez and Hutton beat Subban with long-range slap shots to put the Knights in a 2-0 hole, and Toffoli scored when he fired a wrist shot from the left dot after a faceoff win.
The Knights have allowed four or more goals in three straight games for the first time since Feb. 9 to 14.
Kings counterpart Jack Campbell celebrated his 28th birthday Thursday by making 33 of his 43 saves in the final two periods.
“It wasn’t the goaltender, it wasn’t a couple defensemen. It wasn’t a couple forwards. It was the team,” Gallant said. “That’s what bothers me. Sometimes guys have tough nights, but it was the team.”
3. Patches keep producing
Pacioretty might not win the “Last Men In” vote to appear in his first All-Star Game but remains on pace for a career season.
The left wing buried a feed from Paul Stastny at 15:34 of the second period for his team-leading 20th goal to cut Los Angeles’ lead to 4-2. It’s the seventh time Pacioretty has reached the 20-goal mark in his career.
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